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August 2017 Archives

After the president of the State Bar of Texas issued a call to action for Texas lawyers, the enormous response from the legal community did not end with just the law firms and lawyers responding to that call. Throughout the state of Texas, law students and faculty have also stepped up to provide what help they can after Hurricane Harvey.

Due to the damage and destruction wrought by Harvey, local law schools followed suit with the courts and closed down as well. Law students, like others, undoubtedly took shelter during the storm, but in the aftermath, with their schools closed, some took a tip from the legal community and stepped up to become heroes.

Lawyers Called to Help Hurricane Victims

In every major disaster, heroes are needed. Some will save lives; many will be unnamed.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, a mother drowned while saving her toddler -- found clinging to her body. Their identities were withheld from reports until the child's father could be notified.

Meanwhile, the Texas Bar Association has sent out a call for lawyers to help. It's not about public recognition; it's about public service. For lawyers both in Texas and out of state, this is the time to step up and provide volunteer services.

Why Would Tiffany and Kourtney Go to Law School?

What do Tiffany Trump and Kourtney Kardashian have in common, besides being members of reality television families?

Alright, so the Trumps are not technically a reality TV family. But they are definitely on Trump TV enough. In any case, have your figured out the connection?

Tiffany and Kourtney both want to go to law school, but they don't really need to. They have enough money, fame, and leisure to last a lifetime. So why put themselves through the rigors of law school?

For law students, having a social life is actually important. Maintaining a good school/life balance is important to learn, as you'll need to maintain a good work/life balance as a lawyer, or else.

You need to keep up with friends and family. After all, who's going to bring you soup and a kick in the butt when you're sick or down in the dumps? But actually maintaining a social life during law school is much trickier than you may have anticipated.

Below, you find three tips on how to make the most of your social life while you're in school.

For many law students, the size of the workload in law school can be crushing to the soul, spirit, and social life. When there are hundreds of pages of dense case law reading due every week, keeping up with school can be a real challenge.

However, law students can take comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Also, historically, just about every licensed lawyer living today has gone through law school, and if Rebel Wilson and Gerard Butler can do it, so can you.

Below, you'll find five tips to help you keep up with the workload.

Judge Can Be Facebook Friends With Lawyer

Being a friend of the judge could create a conflict of interest, but a Facebook friend -- not so much.

That's what a Florida appeals court said in a case that naturally drew social media attention. But it wasn't even a close question whether a judge should be disqualified for being a Facebook "friend" with a lawyer.

"To be sure, some of a member's Facebook 'friends' are undoubtedly friends in the classic sense of person for whom the member feels particular affection and loyalty," the Third District Court of Appeal said. "The point is, however, many are not."

How Scared Should You Be of Law School Debt?

On a scale of 1 to 166,634, how scared of law school debt should you be?

If you are doing the math, $166,634 is the average amount of law school debt for graduating law students as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. It's based on the top ten schools by debt ranking.

If you are superstitious, that number includes a hidden "666." Are you scared now?

While you can't sleep in the weeks leading up to your big trial because you're so excited to deliver your best zingers to your all new jury and make your money to keep your coffers good and fat, you're all alone in your excitement. Okay, maybe other trial lawyers might get excited too, but that's it.

Unfortunately for the makers of the recently cancelled reality TV show 'You the Jury,' trial attorneys do not make up a significant percentage of the TV watching public. In fact, the one thing that 'You the Jury' seemed to do as good as any other competent trial lawyer: belabor the obvious fact that regular people don't want to be on a jury and want nothing to do with real court.

Prosecutor's Fake Facebook Page Prompts Ethics Hearing

According to Facebook accounts, Britney Bella is either a young Asian, Hispanic, or Black woman --- or she is a White prosecutor using a fake account.

The prosecutor's real name is Stacy Parks Miller, district attorney for Centre County, Pennsylvania. She created the fictitious identity to gather information surreptitiously about defendants, according to an ethics complaint against her.

"Britney Bella" will be found "legally ethical and necessary for law enforcement," she says. More than 100 ex parte texts and email with judges on cases, not so much.

When it comes to high profile cases, right now, there may not be a higher profile celebrity case than the Bill Cosby criminal retrial. Although the retrial won't be until next year, reports that Cosby has retained new attorneys have surfaced.

Cosby selected attorney Tom Mesereau to lead his new team. Mesereau is most notably known for successfully defending Michael Jackson in the 2005 child molestation trial, as well as representing other celebrities including Mike Tyson and Suge Knight. Apart from his notorious clientele, he's easily remembered for his distinctive and bold hair.

The other lawyers on the team are Sam Silver, who previously represented Cosby in civil court, and Kathleen Bliss, a former big law partner. Now, you might be wondering: Why don't I ever get calls from celebrity clients? If so, here are some tips:

Judge Resigns After Posting Controversial Statements About Confederate Monuments

Which of the following controversial posts about Confederate monuments made Judge James Hinkle abruptly resign?

A. "The nut cases tearing down monuments are equivalent to ISIS destroying history."

B. "It looks like all the snowflakes have no concept of history. It is what it is. Get over it and move on."

C. Observing that Confederate monuments have the rear ends of horses facing north, he wrote: "PERFECT."

The correct answer is "none of the above." Hinkle, a 14-year veteran of the Gwinnett County court and former Georgia mayor, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he didn't "see anything controversial" about his posts.

Making it to law school is an achievement in and of itself. However, once you're there, you'll soon realize that your peers are your competition. Not only are classes graded on a curve, but, even in the largest cities, there are only so many paying jobs that offer law students any real working experience.

As such, it can often pay, literally, to stand out from the crowd. However, be warned, there's an old saying that's as true today as it ever was: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

Below you'll find a few tips to help you stand out from your law school peers.

Shootings, Bomb Threats at Courthouses and Law Firms

Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. was walking to the courthouse when a man ran up and started shooting at him.

Bruzzese was carrying a gun and returned fire. A probation officer joined the shoot-out, which killed the attacker and injured the judge.

At a time when so many people turn to violence in the guise of seeking justice, it is a solemn reminder that judges and lawyers need more than cybersecurity.

There's no doubt that while working as an associate, grinding out billable hours better than any robot ever could, attorneys are going to need some stress relief. However, relying on alcohol as the primary method of stress relief can lead to serious health consequences.

Many law firms host weekly happy hours, or may even have a fully stocked bar onsite. Some real life lawyers even have those fancy crystal glass liquor decanter sets you see in TV lawyers' offices. But will just working at a law firm lead to alcoholism?

The American Bar Association has announced a new venture that aims to help journalists, the media, and general public fact check legal issues that hit the mainstream media.

The website, ABALegalFactCheck.com, allows anyone to email questions for legal fact checking, but does not promise that all questions will be answered. Rather, the website appears to just be an informative website where trending legal topics that are being confused by media, journalists and pundits, might be explained.

Andrew Parnas, who dreamed of going to law school at age 10, is now, at age 18, going to be starting law school this fall at George Washington University. And if you think the young man is full of idealism and passion for fighting the good fight, guess again.

The tenacious teen foresees a future in corporate law departments doing M&A, or working in ADR. Not only does he have political aspirations, but he only sees law school as a "stepping stone" to achieve his broader goals.

A few years ago, something unexpected started happening across the country: undocumented immigrants started seeking admission to practice law in the U.S..

Surprisingly, this even occurred before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was even passed. Although there is no federal prohibition on state bars admitting undocumented immigrants, recently, the ABA issued a statement in support of a congressional resolution to amend the current relevant code section to provide even stronger protections for undocumented immigrants seeking admission to a state bar. As a result of DACA, many undocumented immigrants that are just reaching adulthood do not have to fear deportation.

New ABA President: 'Just the Facts'

Attorney Hilarie Bass took a page from Detective Joe Friday when she became president of the American Bar Association.

"Just the facts, ma'am," Friday reportedly said in the television series, Dragnet. Bass said as much in announcing a new program, ABA Legal Fact Check.

"With all the various sources of information out there, what we know is there's a lot of false information about what the law is," Bass said as she assumed the presidency. "The ABA should stand for being the accurate source of information about what the law stands for."

Bass announced many goals in her first speech as the incoming president of the 400,000-member organization. As every lawyer knows, the results will depend on the facts and the law.

When it comes to choosing the right computer for law school, many prospective and current students often succumb to decision paralysis. After all, lawyers are known for loving their laptops. Luckily, choosing the wrong laptop is easily avoidable.

First and foremost, most law schools will provide some minimal guidance as to the requirements for student computers to work on their networks and be compatible with school specific software. For instance, Duke University School of Law warns students to not even bother bringing a Windows XP computer as these are no longer supported by the university, nor Microsoft.

Charlotte School of Law Is Expiring

For Charlotte School of Law, the funeral march started a year ago.

It began when the American Bar Association suspended its accreditation. Then the Department of Education stopped its federal student loans. Now its license as an educational institution has expired.

"[T]o ensure that CSL does not inadvertently run afoul of North Carolina law, we have taken down the school's website to avoid any perception that we may be engaged in unauthorized conduct," the law school president and dean told students in an email.

So that's it. The bitter end.

Being an attorney can be stressful. It requires skills in time management, people management, business administration, bookkeeping -- not to mention meeting strict filing deadlines while upholding ethical standards and exercising due diligence on behalf of clients. The stress of practice can often wear on a practitioner's mental health.

Mental health is really important. An attorney that isn't taking care of their health, either physical or mental, is doing their clients a disservice. A person doesn't need to have a diagnosable mental health condition in order to be cognizant of, and take actions to maintain and protect, their own mental health. For attorneys, failing to do so can have real consequences for both you and your clients.

Florida Bar Launches Pro Bono Online

The American Bar Association has made it a lot easier for lawyers to provide pro bono services in Florida.

Working through the Florida Bar Association, the ABA has launched a free legal service online in the Sunshine State. ABA Free Legal Answers is a website that provides legal answers and advice to people who cannot afford it.

"It sounds unbelievable," the Pensacola New Journal reported, "but there are already 500 licensed attorneys waiting to answer your questions."

Newly minted lawyers are hanging their own shingles at a much higher rate than ever before. While some law schools have started offering courses on the practical business skills for running a firm as a result of this increase, the ivory tower is a bit too far removed from the real world to teach real client acquisition strategies. When push comes to shove, without clients, you can't practice law, and paying the bills is going to be even harder.

But you went to law school to become a legal professional, not a legal marketing professional. Luckily, the Lawyer Marketing team here at FindLaw has put together a free playbook to help you resolve this very issue: Client Acquisition Strategies for Solo Practitioners. If you're about to start your own practice, or have already started, it's never too late to do some fine tuning to your marketing strategies -- especially with a little help from a leader in online legal marketing for small firms.

Tips for Lawyers After Getting Fired: Reevaluating Your Career

'You're fired!'

For many lawyers, that expression could be President Trump's most quotable expression because he has fired so many attorneys in his short tenure. But whether you've been canned by a president, a partner, or a client, getting fired is not a death spiral to your career. It is a rebirth and a chance to get ahead and out of the rat race.

It might be a bit of a far cry from Arlo Guthrie being asked if he'd rehabilitated himself after being a litterbug so that he could be drafted into the Vietnam War, but Reginald Betts, an ex-con like the most famous Guthrie, is being asked to prove his good moral character in order to be admitted to the state bar of Connecticut.

You see, Mr. Betts was convicted of something quite a bit worse than being a litterbug, and rather than being drafted, he is seeking to become a licensed attorney. However, Connecticut, like every other state, imposes that pesky moral character and fitness requirement, and if you have a conviction history, it can often be an insurmountable hurdle.

Georgetown Launches Constitutional Rights Center

Justice will not be delayed at Georgetown's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

The institute, which was launched to show students how to fight for constitutional rights and values, filed an amicus brief the same day in ODonnell v. Harris County, a high-profile case that questions the practice of jailing poor defendants.

"(Detaining indigent defendants based solely on their inability to pay money bail, while others similarly situated but able to pay are released, offends the Constitution, undermines confidence in the criminal justice system, impedes the work of prosecutors, and fails to promote safer communities," the brief says.

For a one-day-old organization, that's quite an opening statement.

10 Best Part-Time Law School Programs

Choosing a part-time or full-time law program is like choosing between vanilla and chocolate.

Both work, but some people hate one or the other. A part-time curriculum seems distasteful to full-timers who can't image anything less than complete devotion to their studies.

But part-time students can actually have their cake and eat it, too, as long as they don't overdose. Here's a guide to the best part-time programs and other considerations.

With Less Competition, Is Now the Time to Apply to Law School?

Predicting the future of law schools is a bit like predicting the weather.

Everybody hopes for sunny skies, but meteorology is a science not a hope. And when the clouds come, we often look for silver linings to shade us from disappointment.

So in the dreary climate of declining law school applications, there is some hope if not science. Look at it this way: there is less competition to get into law school now.

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has reportedly hired renowned New York defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who notably got John Gotti off. In addition to Gotti's champion, El Chapo has hired a whole team of "high powered," and likely high-priced, defense attorneys.

Previously, El Chapo, an international drug kingpin, was represented by the public defender's office. Prior to the announcement of the new counsel, who are still yet to appear in court, El Chapo's public defender filed a motion to dismiss based upon alleged misrepresentations made to Mexican authorities.

While many people out there will tell you that there's more to life than the material objects you own, obviously those people have never owned a model of every single type of Lamborghini made for two decades.

Cars are more than just possessions. They're status symbols. They're an extension of your personality. They're good, clean, wholesome fun. And most importantly, they're freedom. And although not all cars appeal to all people, from the 10 year old inside us all, a lawyer's coolness can definitely be judged based upon what they drive.

Below, you can read about five of the coolest lawyer car collections and collectors.

A Robot Already Got Your Paralegal Job

Don't look now, but robots are already taking your legal work.

According to reports, the legal sector lost 4,300 jobs in July. The ABA Journal based its report on numbers from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows an overall decline of 4 points over the past 12 months.

The story goes deeper, however. The same jobs report shows that professional and technical services jumped almost 18 points over the same time period.

That's right, you heard it here first: a robot took your paralegal job.

Two More Law Schools Accept GRE

What was once an anomaly is now a trend: two more law schools are accepting the Graduate Record Examination for admissions.

Georgetown Law and Northwestern's Pritzker School of Law will accept the alternate test or the traditional Law School Admission Test for the entering class of 2018. The schools made the announcement the same day, bringing the count up to four nationwide.

The University of Arizona's Rogers College of Law led the way last year, followed by Harvard Law School this year. Despite a slow start, the movement is gaining speed.

Two justices out of Florida's Eleventh District, Federal Court of Appeal, have sandwiched a ruling between pop culture quotes from drastically different time periods. The opinion opens quoting Tyrion Lannister, a character from the HBO series Game of Thrones, and closes with one of the more widely known literary quotes from Shakespeare's MacBeth.

What's more is both quotes actually fit the case, Rodriguez v. City of Doral, et. al., rather well. The matter involves the alleged constructive discharge of a police officer for his political support of a candidate for office. On summary judgment, the lower district court ruled that the letter of voluntary resignation the plaintiff submitted to his employer negated the constructive termination claim. The circuit court had a different opinion, and delivered the reversal with style.

In the game of worst ways to get disbarred, one former Florida lawyer has scored almost as high as the notorious Prenda Law 'porn-stortion' scheming lawyers. Jose Manual Camacho pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges related to forging the signatures of judges for cases he was working on. He probably would have gotten away with it too, if only he had minded judge Garcia-Wood's vacation schedule.

As a result of his guilty plea, Camacho was sentenced to 364 days in jail, as well as 10 years of probation. While some might think the sentence is too light, particular for 14 felonies, Camacho did admit guilt and he cooperated with authorities. Additionally, it's not likely he'll be able to practice again anytime soon, or ever.

Will DeVos Save Charlotte Law School?

Reports about the death of Charlotte School of Law have been greatly exaggerated -- for now.

According to reports, the U.S. Department of Education may restore federal funding for student loans at the law school. At least that's what Charlotte's interim dean is saying.

"We are excited at the prospect of being able to help our students complete their legal education," said dean Paul Meggett.

Charlotte students are praying it works out. But as Mark Twain also wrote, "You can't pray a lie."

Law Grad Wins $65,000 Moot Court Prize

Moot court winners typically get applause and bragging rights, but these competitors split $115,000 in prize money.

In the rare air of the Phillip R. Shawe Scholarship Competition, three winners beat out 240 students who submitted briefs. The finalists argued before a panel of judges, and University of Florida Levin College of Law's Steven Hermosa answered the $65,000 first-place questions.

"You not only answered the questions, but you used the questions to further your argument," competition judge Alan Dershowitz told Hermosa. "By the end of your answers, you were not in the same position you were in before the question was asked, you were in a better position, and that to me is the key to an extraordinarily effective oral argument."

The highly anticipated defamation case against John Oliver and HBO brought by Robert Murray and his corporate coal conglomerate has been making headlines since its filing shortly after Oliver aired his segment on the coal baron. Although Oliver was warned that airing the segment would lead to litigation, his team was confident enough in the First Amendment to proceed.

However, while Oliver's segment may have been hilarious, an amicus curiae brief filed by the ACLU of West Virginia in the case may actually be the funniest piece of legal writing in human history.

High School Students Go to Law Camp

The new 'law camp' at Brigham Young University is not exactly what you think it is.

Yes, BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School sits in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountain Range. But no, the students attending the "Civics, Law and Leadership Youth Camp" in Salt Lake City are not camping in the wilderness. They are camping at the courthouse, however, and that makes them pioneers in another way.

National headlines are spreading like wildfire about the new Department of Justice policy shift to investigate and go after "discriminatory" affirmative action policies at universities. Critics are suggesting that the new policy is an overt attempt to protect white individuals from discriminatory affirmative action policies and institutions that go too far in exercising affirmative action. This is according to an unnamed U.S. government official cited by the Washington Post.

On its face, the policy seems to be neutral in regards to which race(s) it seeks to protect, but the unnamed source really puts that in question. The twist to this policy appears to be rather focused.

The recent TV sensation Better Call Saul tracks the story of fictional attorney James McGill, whom we were all introduced to as Saul Goodman in the other hit series, Breaking Bad. Goodman, or McGill is said to be a criminal lawyer, with maybe a little too much emphasis on the criminal part.

The series, while often comical, is just as often dramatic as it gets into the worst aspects of practicing law. For attorneys, it is one of the rare legal TV shows that does not do much to glorify the life of an attorney. In fact, there are some serious lessons for practitioners that can be drawn from the show.

Non-Traditional Law School Ranking -- by Student Quality

So many law schools, so many choices ...

Fortunately, the annual U.S. News rankings help students decide where to go to law school. But it's kind of a one-size-fits-all guide, comparing LSAT's, GPA's, acceptance rate, bar passage scores, student-to-faculty ratios, job placements, etc.

So some law professors have a different idea -- how about rankings that just compare student quality? Wait, is this a trick question?

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court came to bat for one of their own last week, finally quashing a class action matter against a former probate judge. Judge Robert M. A. Nadeau was being sued in his capacity as a former York County Probate Judge by a litigant whose case was delayed when the jurist decided to change around the court calendar and his schedule.

What makes this case all the more noteworthy, though, is that the judge had requested additional hours and pay, and was denied the hours, but granted the pay increase. It was found that he changed his schedule around almost immediately after that meeting where he got a raise. It was alleged the change was in retaliation for the denial of the additional hours.